Recently, the Dalai Lama spoke at the European Parliament on religion and violence in our world. He stated “All major religious traditions carry the same message: a message of love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment, self-discipline — all religious traditions.” But what is the message of love today?
I know the teachings of Jesus and those of the Dalai Lama resonate for many Christians. However, as an African American Christian, I wonder what do White racists think when they hear the words of Jesus, “Love your neighbor as I have loved you.” And, when the Dalai Lama, a man of color, speaks of a loving God, for all religious traditions, for all humanity, how do these words impact a heart filled with hate? In this 21st century, we seem to be in the midst of a major crisis of love. Where was the love in Tulsa? Where was the love in Charlotte? Where was the love for Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri? American Conservatives can claim we are a Christian nation that proudly proclaims “In God We Trust,” but their actions seem to idolize a god who loves the White supremacist American way: spewing more hate than love. Their god is an American god who teaches “In Whiteness We Trust”.
I can remember my entire life the feeling of being greatly loved. I grew up in a loving African American family. It was my foundation and my strength. Yet, in spite of still feeling loved in my home, each time I walk out my door I am reminded that outside my home, I am not loved. In fact I am hated, merely for the color of my skin. I can’t even fathom hating someone so much that you would kill them without even knowing their story. I remember once when I was about seven years old, my mother took my brother and me on a bus trip to Riverview Amusement Park on Chicago’s northwest side. The bus was crowded and I had to stand a distance from my mother. A white man standing next to me decided to put out his lit cigarette on my arm because he didn’t like Negroes. When I screamed, my mother came running, and he jumped off the bus shouting obscenities that I was too young to understand. However, the harshness of his tone and the ugliness of his distorted face, revealed to me the hate in his heart. I asked my mother why he did that. She told me he was sick. Since Riverview was my favorite place, I didn’t let this stranger dampen my excitement, but it was a lesson learned. On that day, I learned that not everybody loved me. I learned that some people actually hated me because they believed me to be that word the man called me: “a nigger.” At the time, I didn’t even know what a nigger was supposed to be.
Today, as I watch police shoot unarmed Black men and women, I am reminded of my own experience with hatred. I still ask today, why do they hate us so much? And, who is this “American god?” I do know this. When we senselessly kill and maim from a place of hate and fear, we dishonor our humanity. When we choose to deny and ignore the stories of others, we deny their humanity. The Living God is a God of love. My God is a God of justice and tolerance, who loves all creation, equally. I also know this “American god” of white supremacy, who demands hating African Americans is no god at all. This “American god” is an idol, a worship of the White self as a god.
In Christian theology, we have a word for the worship of idols.
It is heresy.